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Backgrounder: Long-awaited executive order on religion has unclear path ahead

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — At a White House Rose Garden ceremony May 4, President Donald Trump told a group of religious leaders: “It was looking like you’d never get here, but you got here, folks,” referring to their presence at the signing of the executive order on religious liberty.

Maybe some in the group wondered where “here” was since they hadn’t even seen the two-page executive order they were gathered to congratulate and only knew the general idea of it from a White House memo issued the previous night with just three bullet points.

People recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of a presentation on religious freedom at St. Patrick Church in Smithtown, N.Y., in 2016. (CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz)

People recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of a presentation on religious freedom at St. Patrick Church in Smithtown, N.Y., in 2016. (CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz)

The order didn’t seem to part any seas to make an immediate path to religious freedom, especially since it places decisions for how this will play out in the hands of federal agencies and the attorney general.

Catholic leaders in general seemed to view it with cautious optimism, praising the order as a first step but not the final word.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who attended the White House ceremony also celebrating the National Day of Prayer, said immediately after the event that he had yet to see the entire executive order. He defined the principle of it: “There should not be an overly intrusive federal government” involved when people are exercising their religious freedom in the public square or institutions they run.

The two-page order, “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty,” was posted on the White House website hours after it was signed. It is half the length of a leaked draft version of this order published Feb. 1 in The Nation magazine. The order signed by the president is short on specifics and far less detailed than the leaked draft.

It devotes the most space to a promised easing of the Johnson Amendment, a 1954 law that bans churches and nonprofit organizations with tax-exempt status from taking part in partisan political activity. Although it would take an act of Congress to do away with this regulation, Trump can direct the Internal Revenue Service not to enforce it.

Many people likely aren’t familiar with the amendment by name, or they weren’t before this executive order, but they support the idea of it, according to a May 4 poll by the Public Religion Research Institute.

The poll shows 71 percent of Americans favor the law, as do most all major U.S. religious groups Only about one-third of white evangelical Protestants favor allowing churches to endorse candidates, compared to 56 percent who oppose it. Also, just 23 percent of white mainline Protestants, 25 percent of Catholics and 19 percent of black Protestants support churches endorsing political candidates.

In an interview with Catholic News Service at Reagan National Airport May 4 on his way back to his diocese for a confirmation Mass, Cardinal DiNardo said the amendment was likely more important to evangelical Christians than Catholics because, as he pointed out, the Catholic Church “has the tradition of ‘Faithful Citizenship,’” which he said puts the Johnson Amendment in a bigger context.

“Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” the U.S. bishops’ quadrennial document on political responsibility, guides voters not according to the stances of specific political candidates but Catholic social teaching.

Richard Garnett, professor of law at the University of Notre Dame, said in an email to Catholic News Service that the order’s emphasis on weakening the Johnson Amendment did not seem particularly significant, noting: “it is already the case that the relevant agencies and officials are highly deferential — as they should be — to churches and religious leaders, especially when it comes to what’s said in the context of sermons and homilies.”

Commenting on another major point of the executive order, relief to employers with religious objections to include contraception coverage in their employees’ health care plans, Garnett called it “a good thing — and long overdue,” but he also noted that “such regulatory relief was already probably on its way, as a result of the Supreme Court’s decisions.”

In a statement after the order was signed, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price promised to take action “to safeguard the deeply held religious beliefs of Americans who provide health insurance to their employees.” The promise didn’t give any specifics.

The lack of details in the order even caused the American Civil Liberties Union, which had been poised to sue, to change its course. In a statement issued hours after the order’s signing, ACLU director Anthony Romero said the order had “no discernible policy outcome.”

“After careful review of the order’s text, we have determined that the order does not meaningfully alter the ability of religious institutions or individuals to intervene in the political process,” he said.

But the group also stands ready to sue the Trump administration if the order generates any official government action. Religious groups, for opposite reasons, likewise stand ready to see if the order has any teeth.

As Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said in a statement: “This order marks an important step in restoring those constitutional principles guaranteed to every American,” with the added caveat, “There is still work to be done.”

 

Contributing to this story was Chaz Muth.

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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Trump reinstates policy banning U.S. funds for abortions in other countries

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — President Donald J. Trump issued an executive order Jan. 23 reinstating the “Mexico City Policy,” which bans all foreign nongovernmental organizations receiving U.S. funds from performing or promoting abortion as a method of family planning in other countries.

The action was hailed by pro-life leaders.

“President Trump is continuing Ronald Reagan’s legacy by taking immediate action on day one to stop the promotion of abortion through our tax dollars overseas,” said a Jan. 23 statement from Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List.

U.S. President Donald J. Trump holds up his executive order reinstating the "Mexico City Policy" banning federal funding of abortion-providing groups abroad after he signed it Jan. 23 in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (CNS /Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

U.S. President Donald J. Trump holds up his executive order reinstating the “Mexico City Policy” banning federal funding of abortion-providing groups abroad after he signed it Jan. 23 in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (CNS /Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

“President Trump’s immediate action to promote respect for all human life, including vulnerable unborn children abroad, as well as conscience rights, sends a strong signal about his administration’s pro-life priorities,” she said.

“By redirecting taxpayer dollars away from the international abortion industry, President Trump has reinstituted life-affirming protections for unborn children and their mothers,” said a Jan. 23 statement by Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus. “There is political consensus that taxpayer dollars should not fund abortion and the abortion industry.”

“Now we see pro-life fruits of the election unfolding as President Trump has taken immediate action to reinstitute President Reagan’s Mexico City Policy,” said Father Frank Pavone, head of Priests for Life, in a Jan. 23 statement. “Poll after poll shows that Americans do not want their tax money to pay for abortions. Stopping funding to foreign pro-abortion groups is a powerful first step toward doing the same domestically.”

Named for the city that hosted the U.N. International Conference on Population in 1984, where Reagan, then in his first term as president, unveiled it, the Mexico City Policy has been the textbook definition of a political football. Adopted by a Republican president, it has been rescinded when Democrats sat in the White House, only to be restored when Republicans claimed the presidency.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton’s revocation of the policy was made so quickly following his inauguration that some participants in the March for Life, conducted two days after the inauguration, carried “Impeach Clinton” signs.

Just as Clinton had rescinded the policy two days after taking office, so did President George W. Bush reinstate it two days into his presidency, expanding it to include all voluntary family planning activities. President Barack Obama rescinded the policy Jan. 23, 2009.

Court challenges to the policy resulted in rulings in 1987 and 1988 that limited its application to foreign NGOs.

The executive order “makes clear that Trump intends to carry out with his promised pro-life agenda. Taxpayer funding for abortions, whether here or overseas, is unpopular with voters and is plain wrong,” said a Jan. 23 statement by Ashley McGuire, a senior fellow with the Catholic Association.

“It amounts to subsidizing the violent victimization of women and children, in particular poor and minority women who feel they have no choice but to have an abortion,” McGuire said. “Redirecting those funds to health centers that offer women real choice and hope is the right policy moving forward.”

 

Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.

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Catholic panelists discuss ‘Faithful Priorities in a Time of Trump’

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Catholic panelists gathered to discuss “Faithful Priorities in a Time of Trump” said it is difficult to get over some of the words the president-elect said during the campaign, and even before he was a candidate. But as his presidency nears, many of them said it’s important to find ways to work with him for the common good.

“When Donald Trump says things about women … I have a hard time stomaching those comments,” said Msgr. John Enzler, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington. “We can still find a way, though, to listen and say, ‘How do we find common ground?’”

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks Jan. 11 during a news conference in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York City. (CNS /Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks Jan. 11 during a news conference in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York City. (CNS /Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Msgr. Enzler was one of five panelists Jan. 12 who addressed the role the Catholic faith can play as the country gets ready for the incoming Trump administration. Some Catholics such as Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Florida, expressed great optimism.

“We can have a lot of hope that he will protect life the way we want him to do … defunding Planned Parenthood, protecting life,” Rooney said. “Things like the insurance mandate can be brought into harmony of First Amendment rights.”

Yet others such as panelist Jessica Chilin Hernandez expressed uncertainty and apprehension of the days ahead. Chilin works at Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, thanks to a work permit she has through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA. President Barack Obama, through executive action in 2012, created a policy that allows certain undocumented young people who came to the U.S. as children to have a work permit and be exempt from deportation.

Chilin is one of more than 750,000 people who signed up for DACA. During the campaign, Trump said he would kill the program and threatened mass deportations, sending those like Chilin into panic.

“I felt a fear unlike any other fear I have had before,” she said about the moment she learned Trump won the election. “The fear was visceral. … one thought that occupied my mind was that homeland security knows exactly where I live. It was hard to imagine myself having a future in 2017.”

Joan Rosenhauer, executive vice president of U.S. Operations for Catholic Relief Services, said now is a good time to review the principles of Catholicism and social justice, explaining that they don’t divide people and don’t say refugees or immigrants are enemies or a burden on society.

“What we have to do is lift up our principles,” Rosenhauer said. “The problem is deeper because our own Catholic people do not know those principles.”

Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobbying organization, said the country is showing a high level of ambiguity, fear, dysfunction and chaos.

“I think that challenges all of us as people of faith,” she said.

Now is the time to stand up for the stranger, the working poor, and anyone who needs of our kindness or help, and Catholic social teaching has a lot to say about it, Sister Campbell said.

Msgr. Enzler noted it is also important to understand that individuals can do much by performing kind actions toward others. People can start by asking: “What did I do today? It’s not an agency that can make things better but people,” he said.

Chilin said it’s important to keep in mind language that we use in daily conversation.

“Be conscientious of language,” she said. “Illegal is a racial slur. No human being is illegal and yet, in many circles, they use it to describe us.”

Panel moderator John Carr, director of Georgetown University’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life, which sponsored the event, asked how Catholics can build bridges in “an angry country, a divided country.” There are a lot of people who feel under attack, he said.

“It’s important to see what role (Catholics) can play in divisions that have been created over the past year,” Rosenhauer said. “I was really struck by Cardinal (Joseph) Tobin and his homily at his installation where one of his key points was that our kindness must be known to all.”

It’s important to stand up for beliefs even when others disagree with them, she said, “but we have to find a way to do it with kindness.”

“We want to protect children in the womb. That’s something we can work with this (the Trump) administration and Congress on. … Senator (Jeff) Sessions said there would be no Muslim ban. That’s something we would support and work together on … then let’s be clear about the areas for disagreements.”

Msgr. Enzler said Catholics, particularly the church’s leaders, must also speak and raise their voices for the vulnerable, and strongly speak the church’s message.

Moderator Carr asked Sister Campbell whether she could offer any lessons about building bridges that she learned during the Nuns on the Bus tour last summer, a 19-day trip that a group of women religious undertook from Wisconsin to the national political conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia. Its aim was to learn what people around the country were thinking about just before the presidential election.

Sister Campbell used the bus as a metaphor for the country. Some said the bus had made them feel as if they were welcome back into a community, a feeling they had not had in a long time, because everyone was welcome on the bus. She said she heard stories about poverty, lack of jobs and lack of access to health care that resulted in the deaths of loved ones.

“No one can be left out of our care,” Sister Campbell said. “We are a nation of problem-solvers, but we have sunk into extreme individualism.”

As Pope Francis has said, it’s about the people, and when people feel loved, they flourish and when they flourish so does the country, she said.

 

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Vatican cardinal explains the limits of eucharistic sharing

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Catholic News Service

MALMO, Sweden — The Catholic Church continues to insist that sharing the sacrament of Communion will be a sign that Christian churches have reconciled fully with one another, although in some pastoral situations, guests may be invited to the Eucharist, said Cardinal Kurt Koch.

During Pope Francis’ trip to Sweden Oct. 31-Nov. 1, the Swiss cardinal, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, was asked about the possibility of Catholics and Lutherans receiving Communion together.

Archbishop Antje Jackelen, primate of the Lutheran Church in Sweden, and Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, are seen as Pope Francis arrives Oct. 31 in Malmo, Sweden.When asked about the possibility of Catholics and Lutherans receiving Communion together, the cardinal made a distinction between eucharistic "hospitality" and eucharistic communion. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Archbishop Antje Jackelen, primate of the Lutheran Church in Sweden, and Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, are seen as Pope Francis arrives Oct. 31 in Malmo, Sweden.When asked about the possibility of Catholics and Lutherans receiving Communion together, the cardinal made a distinction between eucharistic “hospitality” and eucharistic communion. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The Catholic Church, he told reporters, makes a distinction between “eucharistic hospitality for individual people and eucharistic communion.”

The term hospitality is used to refer to welcoming guests to the Eucharist on special occasions or under special circumstances as long as they recognize the sacrament as the real presence of Christ. Eucharist communion, on the other hand, refers to a more regular situation of the reception of Communion by people recognized as belonging to the same family.

“Eucharistic communion, for us Catholics, is the goal” of ecumenical dialogue and will be “”a visible sign of ecclesial communion” or full union, Cardinal Koch said at a news conference. “The other question, hospitality in the case of a mixed marriage, is a pastoral question,” which will require discussion, particularly on the level of dioceses.

“It is very difficult to give a universal declaration because the pastoral situations are very different” from country to country, the cardinal said.

Earlier Oct. 31, Pope Francis and Lutheran Bishop Munib Younan, president of the Lutheran World Federation signed a joint declaration, which included recognition that “many members of our communities yearn to receive the Eucharist at one table as the concrete expression of full unity.”

Catholic-Lutheran married couples, in particular, “experience the pain” of sharing their whole lives, but being separated at the table of the Lord. “We acknowledge our joint pastoral responsibility to respond to the spiritual thirst and hunger of our people to be one in Christ,” they said.

The two leaders did not authorize further opportunities for shared Communion, but expressed longing “for this wound in the body of Christ to be healed” with the help of increased theological dialogue.

Speaking at the news conference with Cardinal Koch, the Rev. Martin Junge, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, told reporters, “At this point in time we don’t have a concrete model of how we would go about” making pastoral provisions for couples in mixed marriages.

However, he said, “it is around the table where people in our communities experience the fragmentation of the church the hardest, and that requires a response.”

 

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Pope going to Sweden for ecumenical commemoration of Protestant Reformation

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The extension of Pope Francis’ trip to Sweden by one day to accommodate a papal Mass for the nations’ Catholics does not detract from the ecumenical power of the trip, but actually highlights the need for Christian unity, said the general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF).

Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, speaks as the Rev. Martin Junge, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, looks on during a news conference at the Vatican Oct. 26. The primary topic was Pope Francis' Oct. 31-Nov.1 visit to Sweden to participate in ecumenical events marking the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, speaks as the Rev. Martin Junge, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, looks on during a news conference at the Vatican Oct. 26. The primary topic was Pope Francis’ Oct. 31-Nov.1 visit to Sweden to participate in ecumenical events marking the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Initially, Pope Francis had planned to make a day trip to Sweden Oct. 31 to take part in two ecumenical events launching a year of commemorations of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. But at the urging of local Catholics, the pope decided to spend the night and celebrate Mass Nov. 1 before returning to Rome.

The Rev. Martin Junge, general secretary of the LWF, told reporters at the Vatican Oct. 26 that the Lutherans fully understand the desire of Catholics in Sweden to have Mass with the pope and the pastoral responsibility of the pope to fulfill that request.

“Of course,” he said, “it is also going to reveal that we are not yet united; it is going to reveal a wound that remains there” since the divisions between Catholics and Lutherans mean that in general Eucharist sharing still is not possible.

While Rev. Junge and other Lutheran leaders have accepted an invitation to attend the Mass, the fact that they will not receive Communion “is going to be a strong encouragement to continue working toward unity,” he said.

Both Rev. Junge and Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said the biggest breakthrough in Lutheran-Catholic relations was the signing in 1999 of a joint declaration on justification, or how people are made righteous in the eyes of God and saved. But before eucharistic sharing and full unity are possible, they said, further agreement must be found on Catholic and Lutheran understandings about the church, the Eucharist and ministry.

Cardinal Koch said marriages between a Protestant and a Catholic are a pastoral concern for both churches, particularly in finding ways to encourage continued church participation and in dealing with the question of going to Communion together.

As a pastor in Switzerland, where about half the population is Catholic and half is Protestant, Cardinal Koch said he began studying ecumenical theology specifically to understand how to best minister to such couples. “It’s a most pastoral concern and, I think, very close to the heart of Pope Francis.”

A year ago, during a visit to a Lutheran church in Rome, a Lutheran woman married to a Catholic man asked Pope Francis what she and her husband could do to receive Communion together; the pope said he could not issue a general rule on shared Communion, but the couple should pray, study and then act according to their consciences.

“We sense that our ability to come with relevant responses and answers to the very complex questions around sharing the Eucharist table has an urgency in the life of the people,” Rev. Junge told reporters at the Vatican. “I really hope the joint commemoration (of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation) gives us a strong encouragement to be faster, to be bolder, to be more creative” in addressing remaining differences, “with a very strong focus on where people feel the lack of unity the heaviest: around the table.”

Asked if there were any plans for Pope Francis to lift the excommunication of Martin Luther, Cardinal Koch said no because “excommunication ends with the death of a person.” It is a penalty imposed by the church during a person’s lifetime with the hope of getting the person to return to full communion with the church.

Briefing reporters on the logistics of the trip to Sweden, Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman, said that because the trip does not include Stockholm where the nuncio and the only Catholic bishop live, Pope Francis would be staying at Igelosa, a medical research company near Lund where the Scandinavian bishops have stayed during their annual meetings.

 

Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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National Catholic education leader visits schools in diocese

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Dialog reporter

GLASGOW – In his role as president of the National Catholic Education Association, Tom Burnford visits schools across the United States. On Sept. 1, he was in the Diocese of Wilmington, where his travels took him to four schools, including Christ the Teacher. Read more »

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Shameful that need for clean water is not a priority, Cardinal Turkson says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Allowing people to drink unsafe water or have no access to dependable, clean sources of water is shameful, Cardinal Peter Turkson told religious leaders.

Indian boys collect drinking water in early May from the main water supply line in Bhopa. Allowing people to drink unsafe water or have no access to dependable, clean sources of water is shameful, Cardinal Peter Turkson told religious leaders at an interfaith meeting Aug. 29 in Stockholm. (CNS photo/Sanjeev Gupta, EPA)

Indian boys collect drinking water in early May from the main water supply line in Bhopa. Allowing people to drink unsafe water or have no access to dependable, clean sources of water is shameful, Cardinal Peter Turkson told religious leaders at an interfaith meeting Aug. 29 in Stockholm. (CNS photo/Sanjeev Gupta, EPA)

“It is a continuing shame,” too, that people’s needs “are secondary to industries which take too much and that pollute what remains,” said the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

It’s also a shame “that governments pursue other priorities and ignore their parched cries,” he said in the keynote address to an interfaith meeting Aug. 29 in Stockholm, Sweden. The Vatican office sent Catholic News Service the cardinal’s written speech the same day.

The meeting on how faith-based organizations could contribute to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals dealing with water was part of Stockholm’s annual World Water Week gathering, which seeks to find concrete solutions to global water issues. The meeting also came in the run-up to the Sept. 1 World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.

With speakers representing the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist communities, the Aug. 29 meeting looked at how religious communities could promote guaranteed access to sanitation and clean water for everyone. Some 660 million people are without adequate drinking water, and every year millions, mostly children, die from diseases linked to poor water supply and sanitation, according to the United Nations.

Religious faith and practices, Cardinal Turkson said, offer the needed “motivation to virtue” that inspires people to protect human dignity and rights.

Faith-based organizations can help youth embrace the values of “solidarity, altruism and responsibility” needed to become “honest administrators and politicians,” he said.

Religious leaders could also help organize “interreligious campaigns for cleaning rivers or lakes in order to foster mutual respect, peace and friendship among different groups,” as well as promote “a wise hierarchy of priorities for the use of water,” especially where there are competing demands, he said.

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Pope Francis sends letters urging peace to South Sudan leaders

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis sent a high-ranking cardinal to South Sudan to urge a peaceful end to the escalating violence in the country.

A worker from the International Committee of the Red Cross speaks on his phone July 16 as workers prepare to move bags containing bodies of unidentified people killed in the recent fighting in Juba, South Sudan. Pope Francis sent a high-ranking cardinal to South Sudan to urge for a peaceful end to the escalating violence in the country. (CNS photo/Jok Solomun, Reuters)

A worker from the International Committee of the Red Cross speaks on his phone July 16 as workers prepare to move bags containing bodies of unidentified people killed in the recent fighting in Juba, South Sudan. Pope Francis sent a high-ranking cardinal to South Sudan to urge for a peaceful end to the escalating violence in the country. (CNS photo/Jok Solomun, Reuters)

Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, met with President Salva Kiir in the capital, Juba, July 19 and delivered two letters on the pope’s behalf — one addressed to the nation’s president and another to the vice president.

The cardinal said the letters, which the pope gave to him prior to his departure to Juba, contained a message calling for peace in the country.

The pope’s message “can be summarized like so: ‘Enough now, enough with this conflict,’” Cardinal Turkson told Vatican Radio July 20.

The Ghanaian cardinal noted that “the speed with which the pope reacted to the need of sending a message of solidarity and to call for peace is amazing.”

“Speaking to him some time ago, he told me, ‘I want to go.’ These difficult situations are always in the Holy Father’s heart,” the cardinal said.

According to SIR, the Italian bishops’ news agency, a local missionary priest confirmed the pope’s concern for the increasing violence in the country.

“We know that Pope Francis is following every evolution (of the crisis) very closely. Cardinal Peter Turkson was sent by the pope here in these days to us in Juba,” said Italian Comboni Father Daniele Moschetti, superior of the Comboni Missionaries in Juba.

For nearly a year, South Sudan has been trying to emerge from a civil war caused by political rivalry between Vice President Riek Machar and Kiir, who represent different ethnic groups. Violent clashes spread across the city and left tens of thousands of people dead since the beginning of their rivalry in December 2013.

Although a cease-fire is currently in effect in Juba, Father Moschetti said the threat of violence continues to loom large over the people and the church, which includes 350 local and international missionaries.

“The climate, including toward the church, is changing: We are all at risk,” SIR reported him as saying.

 

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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U.S. bishops’ conference president says deadly shootings call for national reflection

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WASHINGTON — The shooting of police officers July 7 near the end of a demonstration in Dallas against fatal shootings by police officers in Baton Rouge and Minneapolis earlier in the week “calls us to a moment of national reflection,” said the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

A Dallas police officer is comforted July 7 at Baylor University Hospital's emergency room entrance after a shooting attack. Snipers shot and killed five police officers and wounded seven more at a demonstration in Dallas to protest the police killing of black men in Baton Rouge, La., and a suburb of Minneapolis. Two civilians also were injured in Dallas. (CNS photo/Ting Shen, The Dallas Morning News handout via Reuters)

A Dallas police officer is comforted July 7 at Baylor University Hospital’s emergency room entrance after a shooting attack. Snipers shot and killed five police officers and wounded seven more at a demonstration in Dallas to protest the police killing of black men in Baton Rouge, La., and a suburb of Minneapolis. Two civilians also were injured in Dallas. (CNS photo/Ting Shen, The Dallas Morning News handout via Reuters)

“To all people of goodwill, let us beg for the strength to resist the hatred that blinds us to our common humanity,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, in a July 8 statement.

The archbishop described the sniper attack on the Dallas police officers “an act of unjustifiable evil.”

He said the “police are not a faceless enemy” but people offering their lives to protect others. He also said, “the suspects in crimes or routine traffic stops are not just a faceless threat” but members of families in “need of assistance, protection and fairness.”

“When compassion does not drive our response to the suffering of either, we have failed one another,” Archbishop Kurtz said.

He said the tragic shootings are reminders of the need to “place ever greater value on the life and dignity of all persons, regardless of their station in life” and hoped that in days people would look to ways of having open, honest and civil dialogue on issues of race relations, restorative justice, mental health, economic opportunity, and addressing the question of pervasive gun violence.”

Archbishop Blase J. Cupich of Chicago said: “Every corner of our land is in the grip of terror fueled by anger, hatred and mental illness and made possible by plentiful, powerful weapons.”

“It is time to break the cycle of violence and retaliation, of fear and powerlessness that puts more guns in our homes and on our streets,” he said in a statement.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia similarly pointed out violence is not an answer.

“The killings in Baton Rouge, Minnesota and Dallas have proven that by deepening the divides in our national life,” he said in a July 8 statement.

“Black lives matter because all lives matter — beginning with the poor and marginalized, but including the men and women of all races who put their lives on the line to protect the whole community,” he said.

Other bishops have also responded with statements to the recent fatal shootings.

Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik said: “If someone does something violent, it is imperative for us to reach out to each other in kindness and with respect and refrain from blanket condemnations. We must build bridges. We must tear down walls. We must break the cycle of violence.”

He also called on people to recognize that each person is an individual. “We must not judge any person based on their race or color, their national origin, their faith tradition, their politics, their sexual orientation, their job, their vocation, their uniform.”

Bishop John E. Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky, said the shootings should cause us to ask God “to show us the way to peace and how to live in harmony with each other.”

He urged Christians to be “people of hope promoting reconciliation in a very violent world” and asked: “How much more killing must we witness before sensibly and rationally addressing the prevalence of guns, the inequalities in access to justice and the violence found in human hearts?”

 

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U.S. bishops speak out against terrorist attack in Turkey

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WASHINGTON — Following the June 28 terrorist attack on Istanbul’s Ataturk airport in Turkey, the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference and Chicago’s archbishop issued statements emphasizing the need to find comfort in faith and show support the suffering with prayer and generosity.

The attack left 42 people dead and more than 230 injured.

Paramedics help people outside Istanbul's Ataturk Airport following a June 28 suicide attack. The bombings killed dozens and wounded more than 200 as Turkish officials blamed the carnage at the international terminal on three suspected Islamic State group militants. (CNS photo/Reuters)

Paramedics help people outside Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport following a June 28 suicide attack. The bombings killed dozens and wounded more than 200 as Turkish officials blamed the carnage at the international terminal on three suspected Islamic State group militants. (CNS photo/Reuters)

“Evil tests our humanity. It tempts us to linger in the terror of Istanbul, Paris, Brussels, San Bernardino (and) Orlando,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Christians should not focus on violence and let fear numb their compassion, he added, but instead should focus on faith and “reach out to our brothers and sisters in solidarity.”

“As violence picks up its deadly pace, we can draw strength from God’s endless mercy,” he added.

Chicago Archbishop Blase J. Cupich said the attack during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan “showed a deep lack of respect for faith and human life.”

In the Chicago archdiocese, Catholics joined Muslims June 27 to celebrate the annual Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago Catholic-Muslim’s “iftar,” the meal that traditionally ends Muslim fasting during Ramadan.

“Let the spirit of prayer and respect that pervaded that gathering grow in the coming weeks and months and leave no room for hatred and suspicion among our people,” the archbishop said.

He also asked Catholics of the archdiocese to dedicate themselves to working for peace and understanding in the memory of those lost and injured.

Pope Francis led pilgrims in praying for peace and for the victims of the Istanbul terrorist attack after he recited the Angelus prayer with visitors in St. Peter’s Square.

The attack took place in the international terminal and the parking lot of the airport when three suspected terrorists opened fire and, shortly after, detonated their suicide vests.

Although no group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told reporters that preliminary signs point to the Islamic State, according to Reuters.

The terrorist organization carried out a similar attack at Brussels Airport and the Maelbeek metro station in Belgium March 22, which killed 32 people and wounded over 300.

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